SIGRID Tjijorokisa (ST) is a renowned advocate, with extensive experience in both the public and private sectors, who has also made equally impressive headway in the banking fraternity. She is currently Standard Bank Namibia’s Acting Head of Marketing.
The soft-spoken mother of two has 11 years’ experience in the banking field, with detailed knowledge and experience in the legal aspects, including regulatory compliance, combating money laundering, governance, as well as non-financial risk management.
Having joined Standard Bank in 2011, as Group Company Secretary, Tjijorokisa played a pivotal role in the provision of appropriate guidance to the bank’s board, regarding its duties and responsibilities, as well as acting as a central source of advice to the board on matters of ethics and good governance.
She previously worked at Absa Africa, as Head of Compliance, where she was instrumental in implementing and embedding the group’s regulatory compliance risk management framework in its African subsidiaries. Prior to her time at Absa Africa, she worked at the Bank of Namibia for six years, where she was instrumental in the implementation of the Banking Institutions Act. She obtained an LLB degree from the University of the Western Cape, and was duly admitted as an advocate of the High Court of South Africa.
During a recent interview with Confidente journalist, Marianne Nghidengwa, Tjijorokisa spoke about her career, and balancing her role as a professional, with her family life and her love for farming.
MN: Give us a snapshot of who you are.
ST: I am a Christian and proud mother of two – Mberipura and Shewe. I am in love with life and I believe in making every moment count. A friend of mine once asked me how I can believe in God, when there is so much pain, suffering and destruction in the world. We were never promised an easy ride in this temporary home. God did promise, however, that in all we go through, He will be with us and that He will never leave or forsake us. He will always carry us through.
MN: Briefly tell us about your upbringing?
ST: I was born in a town called Utrecht in Holland and moved to Namibia when I was 13. I have so many people who have shaped and influenced my life. I have been blessed to have been surrounded by loving and nurturing people most of my life. Whether it was eating my favourite poffertjes or showering our neighbours with snowballs in Holland, or sleeping on the floor in my grandma’s clay hut, or sharing stories with my cousins around the fire at night in Omatjete, and then sleeping on the kitchen floor, after a day of hard work; I can just say that my most important value has always been family and recreating that magical experience for my children.
MN: Tell us about your journey at Standard Bank since starting in 2011.
ST: Before joining Standard Bank, I worked for Absa Bank as the Head of Compliance for their African subsidiaries. I loved my job and was so fortunate to meet a lot of people from different cultures, and to see a lot of beautiful places. Then, my family responsibilities called me back to Namibia. I started off as Group Company Secretary, and over time many more responsibilities, such as transformation, sustainability management, corporate social responsibility, Head of Legal, and now acting Head of Marketing, were given to me. I am really fortunate to be able to do what I love every day, and to work with great people.
MN: How did you end up succeeding in the legal and financial fields?
ST: Education is key; it is something nobody can ever take away from you. But in this world we increasingly need something called EQ (emotional intelligence), the cross-pollination of skills and awareness. I cannot lead you or make informed decisions, if I don’t understand anything about your world. So the time of the specialist leader is long over. Successful leaders need to move beyond their area of specialisation. In an agile world, where the only constant is change, leaders need to be all-rounders, or else face the demise of their organisations.
MN: As a female advocate, don’t you think it is time for more women to be appointed to the bench?
ST: My view is that appointments should be made on merit and capability. The independence of the judiciary and the principle of the rule of law are paramount; having said that, research does seem to indicate that organisations with an equal balance of men and women at the top, tend to be more successful.
MN: You have worked for various institutions. How has that shaped you as a woman and professional?
ST: What I have learnt and grown into is the understanding that not everything is about me. It is about making a difference to the organisation, the country and the world. It is about creating platforms for dialogue, so that we become the authors of Namibian history and agents for t rans formation. Therefore, I serve. I am most grateful to my leader, (Standard Bank Namibia Chief Executive Vetumbuavi Mungunda), who lets me live my passion and dream, and constantly challenges me and inspires me to do more. The objective is to leave behind a legacy for the generations to come.
MN: As an influential figure at Standard Bank, what are you doing to ensure that fellow women flourish?
ST: I am into people development and growth, irrespective of gender. I try my best to challenge my team, and to make them understand the yesterday we were, the now we are, and the tomorrow we need it to be. Life moves at the speed of light. If you are not moving forward, you are moving backward. It is time to get out of your comfort zone. It is about progressing in your life, to achieve your intended purpose, and maximising your potential.
MN: How do you balance your roles as a professional and family woman?
ST: It is really about prioritising. I leave my office mostly at 16h30, because as a mother I have to pick up my son, run a few errands and cook dinner. Once he goes to bed, I can work throughout the night, if need be. We have family time in our house, which is non-negotiable. So if I have to watch a Manchester United game, when I don’t quite understand the difference between a penalty, a free-kick and a corner, I do so.
And I shout the loudest. My colleagues don’t quite understand why I know all the words to teen music. As parents, we need to be able to relate to our children, but also discipline them and create platforms where our kids can interact without drugs, alcohol and inappropriate behaviour.
MN: What advice do you have for little girls and other women?
ST: Believe in yourself. Never let your past experiences or other’s opinions determine who you know you are or should be. Keep your head up high, even in difficult or lonely times. Keep your faith in God. He will carry you through, no matter what.
MN: What is your secret indulgence?
ST: I enjoy travelling with my family. I also cook Sunday brunches with Janee, JP, Uajo and the rest of team. I also enjoy a good game of chess.
MN: What takes up most of your spare time?
ST: I love farming. I thought it would be fun, but I have realised it’s a lot of hard work. My farm takes up most of my spare time now. The serenity of nature gives you an opportunity to reflect and understand the greatness of God.
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